Originally Posted by Randaddy
I would suggest making a list of companies in both towns and applying after you see what the snow is looking like in February. Big snow - go to the Poudre. Less snow - maybe the Ark. Of course there is commercial rafting on the Animas in Durango, other sections of the Arkansas (Royal Gorge, etc.) and all over the U.S. so don't stick to these two necessarily - I just wanted to give advice about where I've worked.
Oh, and if you work in Fort Collins DON'T work for A1 Wildwater. The owner is SOUL-less trash and will literally trim those small paychecks so he can pay the bills on his riverside mansion. I'd recommend training with Rocky Mountain Adventures - the new owner seems great and there is a good balance of experience and youth these days.
We teach an SRT course for RMA every season for their rookies and recerts and I'm curious does that river have Didimo? River snot if you will... I have seen it in New Zealand and it looks very similar to what is in the Poudre.
Originally Posted by MountainManJake
I think being a guide is an awesome way to get to know the river better. No, you dont want to do it for the rest of your life but you'll make some great friends/connections and instead of getting a bunch of random advice, you are surrounded by people who have had professional training and experience. I've seen ALOT of sketchy behavior on the river, and regardless of how you choose to boat later on, at least you learned the right way to do things to begin with. Just apply early, and some backups. Also some companies offer free training some companies make you pay for it. you'll also have a list of required gear.
as far as where to raft, pick a river that looks like your speed, and a town you'll be happy to live in. Remember, an 8 on the front range is a 10 in the mountains. but living in the mountains is sick.
you need first aid and CPR. I highly recommend a swiftwater rescue course/certification as well. its a really awesome experience and you learn a ton of skills, however its not required until you want and have enough river miles to become a trip leader.
500 miles to trip lead, and Rescue3 is the only internationally accepted SRT training course. Although a New Zealand Guide license seems to work pretty darn well too.
Originally Posted by salsasean
Just throwing a few more thoughts out for your consideration. I think you should go somewhere will you have the ability to learn to row as well as paddle guide. I know on Clear Creek they are not commercially rowing trip and I am not sure about the Poudre. It is a great skill to learn in case you do ever want to get into multi days for work or pleasure. I have been down the grand twice now, once in my kayak once rowing a raft and I will take the raft next time. Now as far as kayaking after work, the Buena Vista area is probably the best place to be. I personally would not like to guide everyday on Brown's but for the after work boating, Pine Creek, Numbers and play parks are all right there. You are also very centrally located for taking day trips to the numerous other rivers in the state. While I agree, to some extent, that Clear Creek will make you a better guide, I think the Ark will give you plenty of great experience your first season with better after work kayaking options. I worked up there my first 4 seasons in this game and have come out a pretty decent guide, I hope. Also the $30 is for a half day, not including tips and you can do 2, sometimes 3 trips in a day. Research different companies about there training class, hiring policies, pay and amount of work you might be able to get. When you narrow it down to a few companies and locations you are interested in, ask on here about them. You'll get more than enough answers. It is a great thing to do for a summer, I just finished my 16th.
Clear Creek is a great spot, but you are not likely to be getting awesome trips your first year, and that can be discouraging. The Ark has almost 70 companies (at least that was the number a few years ago, some grow some go) so there is plenty of options there. Salsasean is very correct in saying that you want to learn to row as well as spend some time after hours kayaking. No better place than the Ark for that really.
If you learn to row and you are a good fisherman then you can really set yourself up to cash out well in the summer. $100 a day in tips is standard and it's not uncommon to see upwards of $200 a day for multi-day trips if you don't suck at your job. I once got $2500 for an overnight fishing trip.
Some companies in the Ark valley have on property housing and a lot of others will direct you to a campsite. Most of them have in house training, but this usually does not include SRT training ($375 course) or oar instruction (at least initially).
The biggest question to ask yourself before becoming a river god is what your interests are. Do you want to see 7 different people every couple hours and hustle their fat A's down some riffles, or do you want to spend some time out under the stars learning the multi-day thing...
Shameless Plug: DVK has a May guide training that lasts 3 weeks and includes an SRT course and 4 different rivers right off the bat in your raft guiding career. We also have guide housing and food optionally included for those that are hired. This is probably the most expensive training around and due to that it deters some, but you must understand that your first trip is a 6 day Green River trip in Utah (clients pay a lot to go on that trip) and then you run 3 other rivers before your first work day. So at $750 it's not that bad of a deal. Usually our rookies have nearly 500 miles within their first month of work and from that point on you are entirely judged upon your skills. I. E. if you are competent in your first season then there is a chance we will check you out in the Royal Gorge or Numbers as well as give you some solid international connections to further your boating career. Many companies will not check someone out on a Grade IV section until at least their 3rd season.
Also if you scrub out of DVK for whatever reason (very few do) then you've got SRT Training and Echo or Noah's Ark will be all over your junk with that (it means you'd probably be the most trained at the company)...
Any questions you might have I'd recommend you ask SalsaSean he has been around and would definitely give you some good insight into the Arkansas or Clear Creek scene. Finally there is also 3 Rivers area near Gunnison and the Upper Taylor is really fun. We also SRT train their guides and they have a very smooth setup.
Smart move BTW hitting up the Buzz for some answers early on.